Modern farmers face a serious silo problem. It’s hard to know what seed grows best, or even what to pay for it (same with fertilizer and chemicals) when you’re the only operation for miles. So the three-year-old Farmers Business Network empowers farmers by letting them harvest each other’s information. The service aggregates and anonymizes business data—everything from seed and fertilizer yield efficacy to market trends—for a crowdsourced database that weeds out guesswork. “We democratize the information,” says cofounder Charles Baron, “so farmers can share with each other for their own benefit.”
For between $500 and $600 annually, members of the collective can access performance data for more than 25 crops across 2,500 regularly grown seed lines and track harvests in real time, giving them a jump on what the national market will look like months ahead of USDA analysts. They can even now purchase chemicals and fertilizer at up to 50% off, thanks to the network’s collective buying power. In 2016, FBN more than doubled its membership for a group that’s 3,200 farms strong, with 11 million acres in 31 states. It also attracted $44 million in capital from Acre Venture Partners and Kleiner Perkins, among other investors.
Expect the group’s purchasing power to grow. In late 2016, it began testing the market for community-priced seed sales. Big Ag may be consolidating. But FBN, according to Baron, is “reinventing the farm economy” to fight back.
users: More than 3,200 farms
headquarters: San Carlos, California and Sioux Falls, South Dakota